The Royal College of Music, a mile from your house, requests to keep windows closed to reduce sound transmission during the mourning period, for their Patron, Her Majesty the Queen; to keep tremolos, ricochets and the crash of cymbals from leaking onto the flag-lined streets, while black and white billboards with Her profile appear at the Park and Ride and at the airport alongside the departures board, an arrow aimed through her crown signposting Check-In. At one time your brother would have raised his eyebrows at all this, but people change, times change. This same portrait of the Queen is in empty shop fronts on pebble-dashed High streets, on the gob-mottled screensavers of cash machines, in the windows of buses that run late, or not at all because the Poles have all gone home. And how you’d fought with him over Brexit. Do you remember?
In a sex shop window: the Queen’s framed portrait, Head of State, between the rubber torsos of two headless mannequins in black bras and lace panties, the gussets brushing a union jack flag hung next to a thoughtful spray of ten red roses and next door on Superdry counters, Her face, with a pile of last season’s lumberjack shirts. In Yorkshire they set the sails of an eighteenth-century windmill to mourning position—the top sail moved just past vertical, just beyond its highest point, stilled against a royal blue sky, clouds configured as if by grand design into soft cheeks beneath a halo hat. Everywhere, children are told to come to school but nothing too bright- football kits are okay, but playing football is cancelled and the recycling is cancelled, trains are cancelled, operations for breast cancer and transplants are cancelled, maternity checks and dentists are cancelled, the kite festival on the common and the funfair are cancelled while guinea pig awareness week is postponed. Food banks are closed and Morrisons turns down the volume of the check-out beeps as a mark of respect. The Yo Sushi 97p meal deal is suspended, the mechanical ride outside Poundland is suspended— a laminated letter of condolence hangs around the ears of the rabbitmobile, and for anyone who dares to question or challenge online petitions to the UK Government and Parliament are suspended.
But haven’t you always felt like this? At some level? Your sails in the wrong position, your beeps too loud, clothes too bright? Isn’t this what your brother meant in that minute’s silence during the last call you ever had? You’re a dissident. You’re not one of us.
And didn’t it feel right, at the end of that silence, to hold the phone from your ear, to press end call, to say enough? Didn’t it feel good? Didn’t it?
Biography: Kathryn Aldridge-Morris lives in Bristol. Her flash fiction appears in a variety of print and online journals and anthologies, including New Flash Fiction Review, Pithead Chapel, Flash Frog, Bending Genres and Janus Literary. You can read her more of her work at kamwords.com. She tweet @kazbarwrites